Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Slow food movement honors local traditions

May 14, 2008


According to Kathy Walsten, a nutrition educator in the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University, slow food aims to be everything fast food is not. It's slow in the making and the eating, and it's fresh, not processed. It is from neighborhood farms and stores and not from retail giants. Slow food is about taking the time to slow down and enjoy life with family, friends and co-workers.

Slow Food USA is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of North America. Their mission envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, regional food traditions and the pleasures of the table.

The Slow Food movement was founded in 1986 by Italian author Carlo Petrini. He wanted to reach out to consumers and demonstrate to them that they have choices over fast food and large supermarkets. He wanted to keep alternative food choices alive with a movement that is ecologically minded and concerned with sustainability - a connection between the plate and the planet. With the preservation of taste at the forefront, he sought to support and protect small growers and artisanal producers, support and protect the physical environment, and promote biodiversity. Today, the organization that Petrini and his colleagues founded is active in more than 100 countries and has a worldwide membership of more than 80,000.

Slow Food USA is inching its way across the country, with more than 70 chapters in 40 states. Identified by their snail logo, Slow Food USA local groups called "convivia" invite members to taste, celebrate and share food traditions important to their communities. Its biggest bases are in New York and northern California, but Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma support growing chapters. The nearest convivia is in Kansas City, Mo. Even though there are currently no Slow Food USA groups in Kansas, the concept of slow food is definitely evident in the Lawrence area.

Slow foods don't have to be expensive or complicated. They can be as simple as brewing tea from a local store, tasting cheese produced in a nearby county or shopping at a farmers' market. Slow foods include the message that dietitians have been preaching for years: a focus on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. The slow food philosophy digs deeper into the food system, tracing foods all the way back to the soil in which they were grown. According to Melinda Hemmelgarn, columnist and a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy fellow, the message of slow food is about "thinking beyond your plate."

- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.


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